Tiffany’s birthday. Soshi’s birthday soon too. One guess which means more to her. I rewrote a bit of this to better express my thoughts on her and to wish her a happy birthday. It’s my hope that people will get a better feel for this wonderful mix of fluffy pink bunny feathers and iron hard determination. Get to know this girl, this woman. You’ll be happy you did.
When I see people bashing Tiffany, I know it’s because they don’t have the faintest understanding of her. They misunderstand her enthusiasm, her openness, her concern, her selfLESSness for selfISHness. This is ironic and tragic at the same time. If they could walk ten steps in her shoes, they’d have nothing but admiration and love for her. I’ve been going down the list of the Soshi members, trying to understand the magic of 9 and I can say this. Tiffany is without a doubt Soshi’s biggest fan.
Let me say again.
No one believes in the power of 9 more than Tiffany does.
Look at the road she’s taken. First she had to believe in herself, the power of one. To take a leap of faith like she did, coming to a foreign country, alone, and fully embracing it. Think of what that means; the language, the customs, the food, waving a lollipop (ask any valley girl to do that and you’re risking life and limb, seriously,) the culture of respect. You know none if it was easy. But she did all that, and then she climbed on top of a very precarious mountain, not by pushing others off, but by helping and holding tight to those around her. Really, this is something more than remarkable, this is exceptional and as I’ve seen time and again a hallmark of what anyone can expect from her. Understand that this is who she is. What strength of character that took, what belief in herself and her dreams that showed.
When they were trainees working towards their debut, they were nine girls; some had been friends for years, but the long process of training together made them something greater than nine individuals. That process of striving towards a common goal allowed something singularly precious to form, a seed that would grow into Soshi.
As difficult as this was for everyone, Tiffany faced some unique challenges. By getting to the top with her sisters, Tiffany opened herself up to the people that would hate her, just for being different. Judging her because she was somehow not worthy in their eyes. Her sometimes hesitant Korean was a convenient focus for people already determined to not accept her. Her rambunctious energy and American irreverence were seen as disrespect. Her loudness, her willingness to speak was seen as antithetical to Korean mores and also drew ire. Some people even had issues with her for being religious, as if she was pretending to something her Californian upbringing disallowed. Whatever. If that’s a source of strength, good for her. In my opinion she personifies faith, optimism and hope. Is that so bad?
Even with that said and even with her members supporting her, Tiffany is the one I worry about the most. People misunderstand her because she’s a walking contradiction. Incredibly brave, strong and caring for all of her members, she wears her heart on her sleeve and still faces the public with open arms. She’s utterly transparent and incapable of hiding what she’s feeling. Hurt her and she cries, if she’s happy, she shines, and when she smiles, people melt.
No one is a harsher taskmaster of Tiffany than herself. Think about that for a moment. No barb, no cruelty, no criticism can make her work harder than she already does. She would welcome her worst enemy, and not defend herself, only say that she’ll work harder. She takes every curse and hate thrown at her and tries to understand it and she looks deep within herself to grasp how she’s failed to connect. In Tiffany’s eyes, the failing is hers. This… this is beyond ironic. She takes that motivation, that acid hurt and she looks for ways to improve, even when she feels the pain more than most people with normal defenses would.
Love her and she loves back. Hate her and she looks for her failure, her lack, the source of the misunderstanding, the point where she went wrong. Most people have a point where criticism drains the well of goodwill. Where they will look outward and say, enough. Tiffany doesn’t have this. This is what makes me love her, admire her and feel her pain.
In interviews, she’s almost always the first to answer a question, not because she wants the attention, not because she wants the attention, but because she cares how Soshi is perceived. She won’t protect herself, but she’s fiercely protective of her family, her sisters, of Soshi.
On Hello Baby, it broke my heart when she felt she was being rebuffed by the baby. With everything Tiffany’s been through, any connection she can make is more precious to her than her pride. Here’s the next lovable point about her. Knock her down and she gets right back up. Bleeding, bruised, it doesn’t matter. If she can, she’s perseveres. Please go re-watch the second episode of Hello Baby, the first time she’s picked as worst mom (I was very annoyed for her…), when they’re all in the living room. The only thing she looks at the entire time is Kyungsun. She must have cautioned everyone else at least a dozen times. “Be careful, be careful, be careful.” There’s slight vindication later in the series, when one of the honorary fathers, who is an actual father, awards Tiffany the best mom, because he’d seen that episode. He understood that Tiffany cared for that baby, that she knew how precious he was. Tiffany never shirks her responsibilities.
Because she’s lost people in her life, she’s fearful of losing anyone else. The possibility of physical harm is always present in the back of her mind. Simply, Tiffany is more aware of mortality and loss than the others. In Wonderful Outing, when Seohyun is doing the bar flip you’ll hear Tiffany’s “Jho-shim.” Be careful. Everyone else was laughing and carefree and she was worried.
When the girls went on Intimate Note, Tiffany was absent. Her grandfather had passed away in the States and she went to the funeral. You know that the others were thinking of her. I was really proud of them because they did their best even though you know their hearts were with Tiffany, thousands of miles away.
And yes, the KJE Chocolate show. If you’ve ever thought that Soshi was a manufactured product, with fake plastic dolls, go watch Chocolate. That’s our Soshi, those are the real emotions behind their professionalism. 9 young women who’ve sacrificed so much to entertain us. A stone would have wept. Watch Tiffany’s face, when the letter to the mystery woman’s daughter is read. From almost the first line you see it. They realize it’s Seohyun’s mom and the moment overwhelms her. Taeyeon goes very still because she knows the minefield they’ve entered.
Watch Tiffany’s face. She’s imagining that the letter is to her. Watch how still her face goes, the downcast eyes to hide the tears while she holds the hands of Yuri and Sooyoung. Everyone is worried for her. What to say or think about someone like her? How does one not feel for her?
In Chocolate, you see the other eight girls put their own loneliness aside and their concern for Tiffany is more than touching, it’s inspiring. Taeyeon worries about Tiffany a lot, because Tiffany doesn’t take care of herself. This is the girl that so many misunderstand and hate because they think she’s selfish. She has no quit in her. The story about how she took her cast off early, because she couldn’t stand to not be dancing with her sisters, that’s Tiffany. Singing herself hoarse, every time, disregarding the health of her voice for live performances to the point where she hospitalized, that’s Tiffany. Re-watch the interview that took place right after their first solo concert. Look at Tiffany’s face. Normally so enthusiastic and alive, she was drained, beyond exhausted. Totally limp. She’d left it all out there.
The rest of the girls have the control to hold a little bit back, so they’re not hammered flat, but Tiffany doesn’t know anything less than 110% effort. She’s not the best vocalist or the best dancer, but no one works harder than her.
Because Tiffany comes from a different culture, she adds a depth to the relationships within the group. Korea is a highly stratified culture. To be socially acceptable, everyone has to follow the forms of etiquette and respect. Because she was unfamiliar with them she was an easy target. Oh, she’s rude. Oh, she’s ignorant. She should know better. She doesn’t care. This born and raised Valley Girl, castigated for not being perfect… If you hate her, just for one second, put yourself in her shoes and try the thought that she isn’t malicious or uncaring. Just, for a moment, think that she’s human and capable of mistakes. Think, for a moment, that this is important to her, that this is her dream and that she tries very hard, that she works very hard. Just try that.
Now she knows the proper forms, now she’s very careful of what she says and how she says it. Always greeting, always cheerful with that smile from heaven, that’s Tiffany. The flip side to that is she knows how to break down the walls within the group. Within the group, she’s the casual and loud American cousin, etiquette be damned. That strengthens the already incredible bonds that we can see. She’s a momma for Seohyun, an English tutor and sister for everyone else, and wife to the Byuntae. She’s the manager that looks out for everyone’s image, and she’s always the ready spokesperson, flashing that megawatt smile.
About that smile. Once she said that she was tired of smiling, because it had become second nature and her shoulders hurt from overuse because she never stinted or calculated the effort. It had become automatic. But understand that her smile is her only defense. Watch her smile and try to be angry. Impossible. Sheerly impossible. But as SONEs, try to comprehend the girl, the woman, the angel behind that smile. Weary. Hopeful. Human.
Lastly, to understand Tiffany, I think it’s important to understand the scars she carries from losing her mom. I can’t begin to understand what that feels like, but I think I can appreciate her hunger for belonging. She said when she was a trainee, she didn’t really think about her family, didn’t miss them, didn’t regret choosing this path. It was only when she debuted, when the prize was in front of her, that she felt the void. She knew then that achieving this monumental success was empty without someone to share it with. The years of ignoring and pushing away the need for a family really smashed into her. That’s why we’ve seen her confront, acknowledge and finally accept what losing her mom did to her. You know what Soshi means to her? Everything.
How can anyone not love Tiffany? Seriously.
Happy birthday Stephanie, MiYoung and Tiffany, our brighter than mushrooms angel. May the doubters understand you better in the coming year. May the hard times be behind you. May you face new challenges with an unforced smile and the support and love of your sisters, friends, family and SONEs. Never doubt that we understand.
Tiff4Best @ S2i
Auratus @ SSF